The Indian Premier League has provided fodder for news channels, tabloids, cricket pundits and even Account Planners & Advertising Gurus. Almost every aspect of the IPL has been dissected in media. Strategic thinkers have compared IPL with reality shows, media planners have waxed eloquent about why it is a success etc.
What interested me were comments on the success of under-rated teams like Rajasthan Royals, the leadership ability of captains like Shane Warne and the parallels thereof to business. A few things that strike me as valuable lessons for corporations and agencies alike:
Company culture: same-same or different?
Commentators have spoken about the beauty of team compositions in IPL, where sportsmen who were hitherto opponents (Saurav-Ricky Ponting) or former mates turning into opponents (Warne-Hayden, Kallis-Graeme Smith, Murali-Jayasuriya) made the tournament exciting. Teams have also thrown in newbies like Asnodkar & Abhishek Nayar with pros like Warne and Sachin. The obvious learning opportunity for the newcomers is tremendous. It also points to the merit of ‘diversity’ in a team.
Now, how often do companies look for ‘people like us’ when interviewing candidates? Very often – almost always. A question like ‘will he fit into our culture?’ is foremost in the employer’s mind. When taken to the extreme, it fosters a company or a team of ‘sameness’. An orthodox company will look for the same in its prospective employees. Sure, companies look for certain basics (quality of education, smartness quotient etc.) when hiring people. But are we afraid of hiring people who will be different from us? People who are considered to be mavericks typically find it tough to break in. In the agency business, it helps to have people with diverse experiences & tastes in a team. Of course, wearing the same shirt does not make a team. The challenge is to foster loyalty for the team despite the differences. The leadership plays a critical role in promoting the feeling that ‘every team member is unique, yet adds value’. As an aside, David Ogilvy said, “If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants’. Now that calls for confidence and some risk taking.
With IPL, the team composition is left to the owner of the team. But what you do with the team you have, makes all the difference. Sure, test teams too bring in a diverse talents & personalities together. A sober Rahul Dravid or Kumble do play along with firebrands like Sreesanth. At the IPL, this has been amplified further.
Another aspect that set me thinking is one of experience. Much has been said about how age does not matter in IPL. Ditto for experience. Not many of the players involved have had T20 experience – some adapt, some did not (like our Bengaluru Boys). In agencies, it is customary to look for experience in similar categories. An FMCG client is sought to be manned with people who have FMCG experience, a telecom client with telecom experience and so on. Is it time to change that outlook? If the person has basic grasp of advertising & consumer behaviour does category experience matter? If the person is clear about his role and competent enough to perform, then shouldn’t some training take care of the rest? When it comes to specialist areas like digital, sure ‘category skills’ matter. It is like looking for a specialist wicket keeper – a bowler cannot fill in.
True to the theme of this blog, these are mere ramblings. As always, comments welcome.